West Indians cannot resist Twenty20's pot of cash
Five leading players in Caribbean are plying trade in Indian Premier League so Test side will suffer
They are trying desperately to make up for lost time in the West Indies. Programmes are being put in place, academies opened, projects promoted, all aimed at recapturing the glory days.
When West Indies bestrode the world for 15 years and produced a succession of truly great cricketers, it was blithely assumed it would last forever. That it patently did not is chillingly clear from the abject Test performances, coinciding more or less with the turn of the century.
Since 2003 the side have won only one series home or away against major opposition, a determined 1-0 triumph against England in 2009. That apart, only Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have succumbed to them.
But there is a suspicion that whatever they do, it may be too little, too late and not simply because various boards waited too long before trying to rectify the omissions of the past. They are affected more than any other Test-playing team by the cheap allure of Twenty20 cricket.
Five leading players are plying their trade in the Indian Premier League, which meant they were unavailable for the Test series here. As the rain poured down at Hove yesterday, washing out the first day's play of the tour, the five were probably happy not to be here. Not all of them would have made the selection cut anyway but their absence is a harbinger of future doom for West Indies.
The opening batsman and former captain Chris Gayle, the new mystery spin sensation Sunil Narine and the experienced all-rounder Dwayne Bravo would all have merited serious consideration. Kieron Pollard, a limited-overs specialist, and Andre Russell, another seam-bowling all rounder, would have been more doubtful but it was academic because they were swept away on a tide of riches.
Those running the game in the Caribbean seem reluctantly prepared to accept it as a price they must pay. They expect the flow of players to all Twenty20 leagues around the world to increase in the next few years, simply because their players can earn money in them that the West Indies board can never hope to match.
Azim Bassarath, the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board, said: "The problem is that a number of our players have to leave the national set-up and go into the international set-up. Four of our players from Trinidad had to go to the IPL in India this year and before that we had some in the Bangladesh Twenty20 tournament.
"As a result of this we have recognised what we have to do here at least and that is get a bigger pool of players. If these players can earn their money now we have no other choice but to encourage them to go wherever they can to earn it. The fact is, many of those great players of the Seventies, Eighties and early Nineties are struggling to make ends meet now to maintain a decent standard of living. This generation can avoid that." The simple truth is that West Indies have little money. Players are much better rewarded and a strong players' union has won rights and privileges for today's players which were denied to their superior predecessors.
But they are largely dependent on International Cricket Council funds because there are no big TV cheques. It is still small fry compared to the cash on offer in Twenty20 tournaments for far less effort.
The most intriguing absentee from this tour is neither Gayle, on a $550,000 (£420,000) contract with Challengers, nor Bravo, on $200,000 with Chennai Super Kings, but the 23-year-old elaborately gifted off-spinner Narine from Trinidad. Narine, who remodelled his action after doubts were cast on its legality, returned as a bowler with an array of devious variations and had the Australians spellbound in the one-day series earlier this year. He has yet to play a Test match but there was a real sense at home that they had unearthed the real thing.
Then Kolkata Knight Riders came in with a $700,000 contract, defying all expectations. It was unfeasible that he turn it down and a substantial Test career may have been nipped in the bud. In the Caribbean they are resigned to more of the same. There is one glimmer of light in the gloom. As Bassarath said: "If all our stars are available, we can win the World Twenty20 this year."
Five go missing in Moneyland
Dwayne Bravo 28, Trinidad & Tobago
Right-handed middle-order batsman, medium-pace bowler
* 40 Tests, 2,200 runs at average of 31.43, 86 wickets at 39.84
* 122 ODIs, 2,004 runs at 23.86, 141 wickets at 30
* 24 Twenty20s, 381 runs at 22.41, 21 wickets at 25.67
Sunil Narine 23, Trinidad & Tobago,
Right-handed late-order batsman, off-spinner
* 0 Tests
* 8 ODIs, 52 runs at 13, 14 wickets at 20
* 2 Twenty20s, 2 runs, no wickets
Kieron Pollard 24, Trinidad & Tobago
Right-handed middle-order batsman, right-arm medium-fast bowler
* 0 Tests
* 56 ODIs, 1,288 runs at 26.29, 38 wickets at 35.29
* 22 Twenty20s, 245 runs at 15.31, 11 wickets at 34.73
Andre Russell 24, Jamaica
Right-handed middle-order batsman, right-arm fast-medium bowler
* 1 Test, 2 runs, 1 wicket
* 21 ODIs, 449 runs at 32.07, 27 wickets at 28.19
* 5 Twenty20s, 23 runs at 7.67, 1 wicket
Chris Gayle 32, Jamaica
Left-handed opening batsman, off-spinner
* 91 Tests, 6,374 runs at average of 41.66, 72 wickets at 41.60
* 228 ODIs, 8,087 runs at 39.07, 156 wickets at 35.07
* 20 Twenty20s, 617 runs at 32.47, 12 wickets at 21.08
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